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Charles Martin in Uganda: What to Do When a Manager Goes Native

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Charles Martin in Uganda: What to Do When a Manager Goes Native

Question 1: Describe Ugandan cultural attributes that might affect the operations of a foreign company doing business there.

Uganda is country, which has a multi ethnic, multi religious and multi language background. From the perspective of a foreign company willing to operate in Uganda the language is a serious if not the main problem because of the different types of languages. Even though English is the official language on that country there a great portion of the population that still speaks indigenous languages such as Bantu and Nilotic. This fact alone, results in a risk to the operations of the company by not being able to communicate with the locals, which result in a serious language barrier problem. So, having employees able to communicate with different people in a diverse set of languages is very important from a business perspective.
Another concern is the multi religious background of the country with people practicing many different religions. The company may have to hire employees to work from any religion and also make sure that those belonging to all religious groups are also respected in order to avoid discrimination in the workplace.
Also, business in third world countries tends to move slowly, so for example: phone lines may take months to be installed. Additionally the incomes are extremely low and with high payment system. Uganda is considered one of the most corrupted countries in the world, which as a result is a big problem for a foreign company to operate.

So below is a list of the main attributes that may cause serious effects to a foreign company operating in Uganda:

* Different types of communication languages * Higher and lower class discrimination * Nepotism is considered a norm for employment staff * Extreme high level of corruption * Culture and religious devotion

Question 2: How would you describe the respective attitudes of Martin and Green: ethnocentric, polycentric or geocentric? What factors do you suspect of having influenced their respective attitudes?

HG’s corporate philosophy embraces the idea that although secular HG’s business activities should embody strong Christian values. Additionally, subordinates should be given full responsibility in making and implementing decisions, but they should also be held accountable for their results. By choosing to live in a middle-class Ugandan neighborhood while shunning the expatriate community, by paying extra or service, by hiring recommended relatives, and by paying fees and participating in tribal ceremonies, Martin exhibited a more polycentric (autonomous) attitude, while Green seemed to be more geocentric in his approach. While Martin was more concerned about his effectiveness with respect to his assignment in Uganda, Green was more concerned with corporate-level issues.

Question 3: Who was right, Green or Martin, about the controversial actions in facilitating the project? How might things have turned out if Martin had not been a member of the project team?

Answer: Martin was right about the controversial actions he took in the Uganda operation. HG saw the advantage of having someone with both a home-country corporate perspective as well as the knowledge about the Uganda’s economic political and cultural complexity. Charles Martin was 29, which may be considered young by business standards had a background that seemed well suited to the Ugandan project. He also had graduated with a major in African studies and also joined the Peace Corps in Kenya after graduating His responsibilities involved working with the start up of small business. Therefore he had some knowledge and experience how to working with the start up of any business and Uganda project for HG learned that by paying tips in advance to the responsible people, he could speed completion of HG’s requirements such as phone installed, supplies delivered on operating licenses issued. Martin hired the niece of high-ranking custom’s officer to handle import clearances. Martin also was willing to to make high payments as well as participate in tribal ceremonies in respect to their beliefs. In addition to that, he also hired a specialist in African religions. So, Martin is completely aware that operating a business as a foreign company requires the company to give respect and consider the culture, norms and beliefs.
Even though Martin achieved the desired result on time, his rejection to the local lifestyle went against Green’s idea of a desirable corporate image. Green felt that it might create an assimilation problem future HG expatriates assigned to work on that project. The act of paying tips for services could lead to a high expectation of larger payments as project was progressing, which as a result would affect his relationship with the official caretaker at the sacred site who was willing to soothe people because of the high fees. Additionally, the fact of Martin was involved in participating on the tribal rituals, could have been interpreted as he was making fun of the tribal customs as well as a possible affront by the majority of the Christian population on that country. Finally, this close connection between the HG’s employees and the government officials could lead to an increase in corruption.

Although Martin ignored the local customs if he had not taken such actions the project could have suffered serious delays. If he had not taken such actions the result would be:

* The business’s operation would move really slow causing delays at the project. * The company would have had to wait months to get a its phone lines installed, supplies delivered, and operating licenses issued without paying tips * Without making high tipping payments, establishing family connections, and hire people or staffs would be very difficult since Nepotism is a norm in Uganda * Without hiring a specialist in African religions, and participation in the ceremony by Martin, HG would not be able to continue its operation * Every task would not be completed on time within the total budget.

Question 4. In HG’s next phase of the project – building the power plant – should HG employ someone whose main function is that of liaison between its corporate culture and the culture of its host country? If so, is Martin the right person for the job?

In my opinion if the company decides to have someone whose main role is to be a point of contact between the company’s culture and the Uganda’s culture by simply ignoring the local values, then the same problem will occur again as in Charles Martin case. Culture involves respecting norms, values and beliefs, which vary from one country to another. In this case, I would say that Martin is the perfect fit for the job. Considering the size and importance of such project as well as the many drawbacks that will probably be found it seems logical to employ someone who is very knowledgeable on the Uganda’s culture to serve as a liaison with HG’s headquarter. Regardless the person is Martin or someone else, HG must establish clear guidelines that reflect both U.S. law and corporate policy to guide the managers of their foreign operations.…...

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